Making Peace with “Good Enough”

Accepting what is, parent the child you have, remember your child is not you. These are the themes I stress in parent talks as ways to cultivate your child’s positive self-image and improve the parent-child relationship. Why then am I finding it so difficult to follow my own advice?

Not surprisingly, it’s much easier for me to tell other parents what to do than to heed my own advice. I often joke I was a much better family therapist before I had kids of my own. In my naivete, I used to give families great assignments and tasks to improve their communication or discipline. When they’d come back saying they didn’t have time or it didn’t work, I admit I would be frustrated and wonder why they self-sabotaged. Now, I understand the complexities of family life and how hard it is to implement change.

Right now, I’m the midst of figuring out middle school for my daughter. She’s lucky to have several good options, but I can’t seem to decide which one is “best.” My own experiences and regrets are coming into play and I’m struggling to separate out what is me and what is her. The teens I work with who are beyond stressed out echo in my mind, as I try to find a balance between challenging and overwhelming.

She’s old enough to have an opinion, but not necessarily old enough to know what is best. How much power should she get in this decision making process?   She’s the one who will have to go to this school day after day, although I have the adult vision to see the bigger picture.

I always start every parent talk by letting parents know that I don’t believe there is such a thing as a “perfect” parent. We all do the best we can with the resources we have. The goal is to be “good enough,” which means sometimes we’ll be amazing and other times, sub par.  These two extremes and all the other in betweens will even themselves out, hard to accept for a (reformed) perfectionist like me.

As I am humbled by my struggle with “good enough,” I feel a need to test out some of my other principles.

If there is no such thing as a “perfect” parent, there is no such thing as a “perfect” school. Can I embrace this? Yes, if I figure out what are the biggest priorities for my daughter, and pick a place with the most of those.

Redos are okay. If we end up not happy with our decision, we can always change and move to a different school. Not ideal, but okay.

Be willing to compromise and brainstorm together. Although I may have the final word in this decision, I want to hear her input. I have spent the last eleven years teaching her to have opinions and to speak her mind, so what kind of hypocrite am I if I don’t listen?

Focus on the present, not past mistakes. I can think of all the things I wish I had done differently in my life and for her, and obsess about that, or choose to see the incredible person in front of me.

It’s hard to be a teen, and middle school is a particularly awkward time. Remembering this gives me empathy for her journey ahead and reminds me to always be her cheerleader, even when she doesn’t follow my path or what I think is best.

I’m no closer to a decision, but I am making a conscious choice to practice what I preach. Relinquishing control is hard for me, but I guess that’s part of being a “perfectly imperfect” parent.

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